Creating New Commons

Ethical Action: Managing open-access resources wisely and sustainably with others now and into the future

New commons can be created by forming a community to share unmanaged open-access property. This involves setting up rules of access so that benefits flow to those that care for and maintain the resources rather than just to those who found it first.

The Fallen Fruit Collective in Los Angeles map, care for and encourage access to fruit available in streets, public parks and parking lots in their urban landscape. The group helps maintain this commons with explicit rules and protocols to ensure that the fruit is shared not just with human others but with the fruit trees themselves and nonhuman species such as birds. Community gardening and guerilla gardening are further ways urban resources are being transformed into common spaces of creativity and productivity.

Prawn fishermen in the Spencer Gulf of South Australia realized in the late 1980s they needed to better manage the seafood resource. The fishermen developed a management system based on trust and cooperation where voluntary surveys of the gulf were taken before the season opens with a committee then deciding which areas can be fished. Once the fishing season starts, independent observers on the boats survey the catch. When concerns arise that fishing is having a detrimental impact the area is closed.

The publically funded Human Genome Project has given the world a resource of information about the structure, organization and function of the complete set of human genes. In 1996 the scientists involved agreed that results should be made publically accessible as quickly as possible and scientists had to submit each genome sequence within 24 hours of its discovery on an open-access online database. This means that information about our human makeup has become a commons openly available to anyone with access to the Internet.

Open source software is a growing area of communing that provides free software files people can access online.